“Let us all then leave behind letters of love and friendship, family and devotion, hope and consolation, so that future generations will know what we valued and believed and achieved.” -Marian Wright Edelman
It seems that receiving mail other than bills, bills, or advertisements is virtually nonexistent in my time. So few of us can recall the last time we opened our mailboxes to a hand-addressed, handwritten letter from an aunt, close friend, parent, or grandparent that the art of the handwritten letter seems nearly extinct. I’m not sure why this is, quite honestly. Convenience, perhaps, is what prevents us from taking the tranquil time to sit down, and pen a letter of gratitude, life updates, or a simple “Hello, I’d like to hear from you.” It’s far easier to let that sort of communication slip by altogether, or send the easy, impersonal “What’s up?” via text message. Generations older than mine groan over the atrocious grammar millennials regularly employ, and yet, nearly all of us perpetuate this in the technological world we relish in embracing. Spell check, google, and mobile devices have taken the place of the romance novel, international news column, and coffee shop conversation.
As a through and through coffee shop conversationalists and letter penners, my grandmother and I do our best to mail one another a handwritten note on a weekly basis, for just about every week I spend at my Missouri college. She lets me know all the new church gossip, what restaurants she and my grandpa visited that week, and how everyone in the family is getting on. I send her the juicy college plans for the upcoming week, the goofy stories from the past week, and complaints about my awful college cafeteria food and manic professors. Seems simple, seems almost elementary, but it’s how we remind each other that we haven’t forgotten one another’s importance across state lines. For whatever reason, her old-timey, loopy, level cursive says, “I care” so much more potently than that “What’s up?” text ever could.
So I’d like to encourage those of you who are already here, reading along, to peek at this vintage letter writing guide, and let yourselves tilt back in time a bit. Then, take the tips and run– tell someone not that you care enough to jot a one-line email, or a two-word text message, but that you care enough to pen them a letter, a real letter, with your name signed neatly and the bottom and all. I certainly can’t guarantee anything, but I’m confident the reactions to the time you took to appreciate someone else will be pleasant surprise, that will perhaps begin a back-and-forth line of positive communication and affirmation to continue on with. And if you’re on the hunt for an engaging way to get the younger generation involved in something as powerful as the hand-written letter, send your kids to compose journal entries, write poetry, and mail a hand-penned letter with us at one of our summer programs here at TT Patton.
Happy letter penning,